By BRETT MARSHALL
When it comes to deciding on where to play collegiate sports, the one thing most athletes cite is their familiarity or comfort level with the coach for whom they will play.
That, and the fact that there is a family connection.
Those two factored heavily for Garden City High School senior Jamie St. Clair, who signed an NJCAA letter-of-intent Wednesday morning at GCHS to attend Seward County Community College in Liberal.
She was joined in the signing ceremony by senior teammate Kennedy Brunson, who also will become a 2014-15 member of the Lady Saints.
With one season remaining in what has been stellar careers for both, St. Clair and Brunson were clearly comfortable in their green SCCC Saints T-shirts, during a signing ceremony at the GCHS media room.
"It's a good fit for me because I've had two sisters play there before, and they liked the coach, they liked the facilities and it's a good program," Jamie St. Clair said of her older sisters, Melissa and Jennifer, who preceded her at SCCC. "They (SCCC coaches) were tough on them, but they got better while they were there."
St. Clair, who has played both in the outfield and at third base, and Brunson enjoyed banner seasons for the Lady Buffs in 2013, helping the team to a 17-4 record and an appearance in the Class 6A regional championship game. The 17 wins was tied for third most in program history. St. Clair played mostly at third base her junior season, in which she batted .479 with two home runs, one triple, 8 doubles and had 35 hits in 73 at-bats. She had 20 RBIs and stole 17 bases. She finished with a slugging percentage of .699.
"Both girls have made a good choice," said GCHS coach Trina Moquett, formerly the head coach at Garden City Community College and familiar with Seward coach Andrea Gustafson, now entering her 12th season at the Lady Saints helm. "They've meant a lot to our program, and they'll contribute at the next level, too."
Both were first team all-Western Athletic Conference selections, with St. Clair also being named to The Telegram's 2013 All-Area Softball/Baseball team and Brunson earning all-area honorable mention honors.
Brunson, the team's speedy leadoff hitter, was brilliant as a junior, hitting .521 and stealing 32 bases while being thrown out just once.
"She's got God-given speed, and when we moved her to the left side (freshman year), it's something you have to commit to, and she has done a great job of that," said former GCHS softball coach John Ford, who also attended the signing.
Moquett said that she will be counting heavily on the two seniors for leadership on what appears to be a youthful squad after losing more than half of the starting lineup to graduation.
"They'll be huge for us," Moquett said. "We've got a good pitching staff coming back, and what these girls do on the field brings a lot of chemistry to our team. They show it with their character, and their defense has been stellar for us."
For Brunson, the decision to head an hour south of Garden City to pursue her college playing career also was an easy one. She had been recruited by Pratt and Hutchinson, but opted to stay closer to home.
"I just liked the coaches, and it's not far away from here," Brunson said. "It just felt like a good fit for me."
In addition to her .521 batting average and 32 stolen bases, Brunson, who has played both outfield and second base, recorded 38 hits, including three doubles, one triple and nine RBIs. Her slugging percentage was .589.
While St. Clair indicated she plans to major in the medical field, Brunson said she was undecided as to what career path she would follow.